I’m not a holiday guy usually, but I do look forward to a short vacation every now and then. One of the places I was really looking forward to the opening of recently, was the Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa. For those not in the know, Mahabaleshwar is a 6 hour drive from Mumbai, and a favourite weekend getaway for those who call the city home. The resort in mention has been in the making for a long time, and was subject to repeated delays over the past 6 months for their opening.
I had a run in with them a few weeks ago due to them not opening the resort and already having accepted a reservation, but it finally came down to the opening date being set for May 1, 2015. In this case, I was still calling the hotel a few days prior to ensure there was an opening and I was not heading into a 6-hour wild goose chase from Mumbai. After a long flight from Kuwait to Mumbai, I had a car waiting for me to bring me from my home to the hotel in Mahabaleshwar on its opening day. Since it was a long weekend, the entire city decided to go on a holiday, and it took me slightly longer to drive up to Mahabaleshwar.
Arriving at the Le Meridien Resort & Spa
The first thing that is obvious about the hotel is that no one knows about it, yet! There were no directions placed around this little town yet, nor did the inhabitants of the town know about a new resort having opened up. We arrived after a bit of help from Google Maps, and were flagged down at the entrance to check if we were going to be residents for the day.
At the open lobby, we were met by the top team of the hotel, who were all engaging with the guests and greeting them as they arrived. We were then ushered into the check-in area, which was done up in a lounge fashion. It also had a sit-out area with access to Illy coffee if you wanted to spend some time looking at the greenery.
On arrival, we were offered a cold orange beverage and a cold towel to refresh ourselves. The check-in formalities were completed swiftly, and we were informed that we were being hosted in a Valley View room, an upgrade from the originally booked Forest View Room.
While there were carts available to drive us to our room, we chose to find our way and walk it to the room. The resort is divided into Villas, and each Villa hosts 4 rooms, while some Villas host 8 rooms. The ground floor rooms are labelled Forest View, while the top floor rooms are labelled Valley View.
Rooms & Stay
The whole resort is brought up on a 28-acre area, built inside a protected area, and I was informed not a single tree was brought down to develop the resort. Incredible as it is, it means, you do need to watch out just in case you walk into a tree or a branch. And of course, I am wondering how will this pan out in the rains, when mosquitos and insects may be a big issue. Anyhow, the whole open space is landscaped, and there are tonnes of hammocks, just in case you want to laze and read a book under the shade.
On this stay, we were being hosted in Villa 06, which was on one edge of the resort. As we climbed up the flight of stairs, I noticed the private sit-out of our room, the place we’d have our morning tea every day over the next two days, with cool air in the head early morning.
The room per se, was furnished with modern and minimalistic hues. A comfortable Le Meridien bed, which was flanked by a lounging chair on one side. In a unique gesture, we had carrots waiting for us in the welcome platter placed in the room by the hotel staff. Anticipating the weather, apart from air conditioning, there was also a dehumidifier placed in the room as well. The usual amenities were all there. Also, tonnes of water bottles were placed in the room, so that we were hydrated all the time.
Very interestingly, the welcome platter was not the usual fruits, but also some locally grown carrots they placed in the room. The mini bar was empty, and I was wondering if it was due to the fact that we were over on May 1, which is a dry day. However, they asked if we consumed something from the mini bar on check-out, and I had just a puzzling look to give them. Seems they just had to sort out this thing another time.
The room opens into a shower area as soon as you enter, and can be partitioned off. There was a dip tub with a window to look out from, and the shower had a rain-shower head as well as a hand-held shower.
The hotel went with Biotique amenities, which is a good Indian brand, but I’d have much preferred if they went with a top of the line brand such as Forest Essentials, given their premium positioning.
Since we were very tired, we still needed some food in our system before we got some rest. We headed into the restaurant area, which is next to the lobby, and has a long flight of steps before you arrive to some food.
The steps open up into a bright yellow courtyard, on one side of which are the restaurants. The hotel had two restaurants operational at the moment, a casual dining restaurant called Latest Recipe and the Indian dining restaurant Chingari. A bar is yet to open, and the interiors were being done up while we were there. We also passed by a small lobby, where you could have a cup of tea and read through the number of books they had on offer, or a newspaper.
At the restaurant, we skipped a big buffet, to order off the menu since we were sparingly hungry. The food was good, the service engaging, and the staff was checking in every now and then to make sure we were being looked after.
We slept after our meal, more because I hadn’t slept in the past 24 hours with a gruelling schedule and I was looking forward towards the bed. In the evening, we went to the local market to catch some strawberries and mulberries which are locally grown, and Mahabaleshwar is famous for this stuff. We also had a quick dinner in the market, and came back to watch a movie in the room.
Next morning, we were back for breakfast, which was inclusive for our stay. The restaurant also had an open sit out, which is where we dined on the first morning, and inside on the second morning. Before I move to the dining experience, I’d like to suggest that while the outside area is nice, it is full of flies, so if you want to digest your meal while you eat it, sit out.
On both days, we had the executive chef walk by to discuss food at the hotel. He had his own stories and experiences to share, and he also helped us with suggestions about the meal. The F&B manager was also hands on, and everyone was on the floor, managing the guests along with their staff, which is a good display of camaraderie with the crew and always appreciated.
The buffet breakfast had some interesting options apart from the usual breakfast items. There were morning shooters, full of juices. For the hot breakfast, there were Indian items such as Idlis and vadas, but also local delicacies such as Misal Pav and Pav Bhaji. While there was only one non-Indian set of guests spotted on the property, there was a full ensemble of hot breakfast options for them to dig in too, including bacon and sausages. Apart from that, the eggs & dosas live stations, along with pancakes and fresh French toast as well.
While the breakfast was top notch, I did find it amusing that they used preserves from an Australian manufacturer sitting in the hub of strawberry production in India. To which the chef remarked that they are working on localizing that as well.
Since the restaurant tended to be full during breakfast, we got ourselves our pot of team in the small lobby every day. In the room, the hotel had also placed coupons which offered one free hot beverage for all of the guests, so we would be seen here ample number of times a day.
We also dined at the Indian restaurant once during our stay. The restaurant was full, but they had some great stuff which was also off the beaten path. I was so engrossed with the food that I did not bother with the pictures.
Pool & Spa
The pool and spa area was the most looked forward to, and we finally headed out on day two of our visit to the pool area. There are multiple pools, and on the ground floor, there was the plunge pool with a lot of sundeck chairs and a couple of cabanas as well. The place did tend to get crowded at times, so my personal preference was the infinity pool that was on the first floor of the recreation complex.
There was a great view of the hills from the infinity pool, and this was the perfect place to be, since most people don’t ever end up discovering it!
There were a lot of sundeck chairs here, but no umbrellas which were necessary in the summer season out here. But the good part was that you could order your drinks by the pool and sip a beer while you swim. I could only get drinks towards the latter half of the day. I’m assuming it has something to do with their licenses which they were maybe still sorting out.
Additionally, by the pool side, there was also a pool bar, which was a covered area and you could grab a bite or get a cocktail here as well.
We happened to walk into the children’s recreation area, and were surprised to find foosball there. I was told that day care for kids was provided at an additional charge.
In the recreation area itself there was an adult section as well, where we found ourselves holed up for at least two hours every day. They had a pool table, and we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it every now and then. Additionally, there was table tennis, and then a lot of board games and provisions for outdoor sport such as football and cricket as well. I do remember they organised a chess tournament on one of the days, but I’m not too interested in the game and hence passed.
One of the section we could not explore was the spa. It was full for the day we were spending a whole day there, but looked great from whatever we could see of it. They had all sorts of treatments, but I guess I’d comment on them when I get to try the spa.
One of the great things about the resort was the nature trails they had all over the place. You are basically inside a forest area, but with modern trappings of life which you’re used to. We found ourselves exploring the resort every now and then, and did offer the hotel a suggestion to include a map for all guests so that they could be out and about themselves.
Overall Stay Experience
The difference between hotel and hospitality is always the staff, and we almost always found the staff forthcoming to help and be around when needed. Except the one time when they had a room service plate outside our room block for 24 hours straight before I had to call someone to get it removed.
But, on the other hand, I did find the property already being a little jaded. My room was supposed to be brand new, as we were guests on the opening night, and guess what we found? Cracks hidden away, scratches on the mirror and some spilt coffee in our room. Clearly not things you’d like to see in an INR 10-15K per night stay.
Bottomline: Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar is a great resort, and one I’d come back to again. I’m hoping the next time the small issues are resolved and they are slicker and full swing in service. But the people make all the difference, and they have some great folks at work. So I am hoping that they stick around and make their magic every time a guest walks in. Although, I’m worried about the rainy monsoon season here, and look forward to seeing how they handle that one.
The resort is an SPG Category 4 property. So, you could stay here for 10,000 Starwood points as well, but I find it a good deal to stay here with cash rather than points.
Have you stayed or are planning a stay at the Le Meredien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa? What are your experiences with this hotel?